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History lesson at Kenmore Harvest Festival: McMasters’ descendants meet for the first time, discuss family heritage
For Tom Traeger, the effort took about 10 years.
For Marta Brace, the work lasted about two years, off and on, and she admitted luck played a part in that work culminating during the Nov. 3 Harvest Festival of the Kenmore Heritage Society.
Though they had never met before that evening, the guests of honor for the night included several members of the McMaster clan, particularly Phyllis “Podie” Failor and Jan Lamont.
Both are descendants of the McMaster brothers, who jointly ran a shingle factory in the early days of Kenmore. It was John McMaster who named the city after his family’s ancestral home in Scotland.
“Woodinville has Mr. Woodin, Bothell has Charles Bothell,” Traeger said, adding Kenmore had John McMaster.
“We kind of found our founder,” he added regarding tracking down Failor and Lamont.
Brace spent part of the recent festival showing off a folded genealogy chart that looked like something a calculus professor might have on his or her chalkboard. In any case, Brace said it was a quote in a history of Seattle’s University Bookstore that led her to Podie Failor, the granddaughter of Peter McMaster, John McMaster’s brother and the first of his family to reach this area in the late 1800s.
As it turns out, that book was the work of Peter McMaster’s great-granddaughter, Marsha Fuesel.
At the time of the University Bookstore’s 100th anniversary, Fuesel was the store’s marketing director. She decided to put together a history of the store and invited customers and others to submit their memories of the place. One such memory came from her father, Frank Failor.
For some time before they were married in 1951, Frank and Podie Failor both worked at the University Bookstore. For his daughter’s history of the store, Frank Failor wrote about how he met his wife and first asked her out.
Podie Failor noted she worked in the store’s women’s department selling clothing. Frank Failor purchased several items from her, which Podie admitted she thought was a bit odd at the time. Turns out the clothing was for Frank Failor’s sister, and eventually Podie obviously agreed to a date with her eventual husband.
“It’s been very interesting,” Podie Failor said of her contact with Brace and others from the Heritage Society. She said her grandfather, Peter McMaster, died when she was 5, so she only vaguely remembers him.
“We knew about the mill and a little family history, but not much,” she said.
While the Heritage Society first found Failor, they also managed to come across the Lamonts of Issaquah, descendants of John McMaster.
“I was just kind of surprised,” said Jan Lamont of being contacted by the Kenmore Heritage group. She said she had been doing some genealogy work of her own, but ran into somewhat of a wall after discovering the man she’d always thought of as her father-in-law wasn’t a blood relative. In any case, like Podie Failor, she apparently knew very little about the original McMaster clan.
According to Traeger, Robert McMaster came to this area from Kenmore, Ontario, which also was named after Kenmore, Scotland. Robert wrote his brother John about the fine logging in around Puget Sound and how well he was doing with a shingle mill he was helping to manage. John McMaster arrived in 1889 to start his own mill. When he went to file papers to incorporate his new business on Jan. 10, 1901, officials asked him where the mill was located. According to Traeger, the area had no real name and McMaster quickly dubbed it Kenmore.
Besides naming the area, John McMaster is also credited with founding the city’s first post office. As an aside, Brace noted Peter McMaster actually ended up losing a few fingers in the family mill. Brace has ties to the McMasters herself through husband John Brace.
In the small-world department, Jan Lamont said a good friend of hers is a former Kenmore Council member who now lives in New York.
More in the same vein: After Brace’s initial contact with Podie Failor, it was discovered that Frank Failor, who passed away last year, had been a teacher and principal in the Seattle school system. He actually was a long-lost friend of Kenmore’s second mayor Dick Taylor, an active member of the Kenmore Heritage Society, who spent three decades with Seattle schools himself. He and Podie Failor are acquainted, though Taylor admitted he hadn’t seen her since the 1970s and never had any idea the Failors were related to Kenmore’s founders. Lastly, Taylor is a winner of the Heritage’s Society’s service award, naturally named “The McMaster Award.”